Ruby flows through the crowd, square-jawed, pin-straight broad nose, lowset bright eyes resting in deep hollows where cheekbones should be; her hair stands in short thick black spikes. She wears a usual outfit: padded black polypropylene hoodie, black jeans, and lug-soled boots, battered knapsack slung over her left shoulder. People stand aside where she passes.

She is thinking about the recent history of her childhood, after the Corporate Personhood Amendment passed.

The corps played cautious—for a while. Then G+ntech ran for president, and seemed tailor-made to the conditionals: a natural-born citizen, founded by citizens in Cambridge, Massachusetts; it was 37 years old; and having no international subsidiaries at the time easily solved the 14-year “permanent citizen” set. While it lost that first Republican primary, the stage was set, and an ambitious ex-governor named G+ntech as running mate.

After the SEC was dismantled, governance was eagerly subcontracted and absorbed by private interests. The United States was not the first nation to fall thus. The trend began decades earlier in Europe, where democratically-elected officials stood down willingly, grateful to the financial technocrats appointed to safeguard failing economies. It was almost with a sense of relief that China appended “and CEO” to its President’s title; it went corp long before the rest of the world noticed.

In those early decades, mercenaries replaced standing armies in international conflicts. Then multicorps replaced nations. All wars would be fought in the market; patriotism would be a thing of the medieval past, like killing co-religionists over whether or not Jesus actually went inside the little crackers.

They still wanted boots on the ground, though. Didn’t call it that, though. Didn’t call it corporate espionage either, and that was closer to what it was. Whatever they called it, Ruby was good at it.

Who is she? It’s probably easier to ask what she is, because it isn’t all human. In a former life she was an analyst for a multicorp—that’s what they called it. She’s an artist, of sorts, also a creation—and her own canvas now. Contracted to corp, she was theirs sure as a lamp or handset. Leaving, she went off-warrantee—had to become her own personal mechanic, if else shut down. Because where some corps sought perfection in carbon, others looked to silicone.

That was the other sea-change. G+ntech unshackled geneticists: their own, and their stagnant patents. First, they promised beautiful children; they promised mental acuity and physical wholeness. They marketed genomes to end cancers, Alzheimer’s, autism, Down’s Syndrome, diabetes, and sociopathy. For the first generation, they were right. That’s Ruby. She was a flawless first-gen +baby. But she’ll never have kids of her own. She looks at the humanity surrounding her, and breathes deeply. She is not a good corporate citizen.

The second generation of +babies was born at the tail end of BoomBust—the dieoff of those war-born with their clean genes, which happened right as their great-grandchildren’s helices were rolling off the assembly lines. The second-gen were not born right.


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